WASHINGTON – Since being drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2012, Bradley Beal has emerged as a two-time All-Star and a model representative of the Washington metro area. But that meant nothing to the police officer who pulled him over two years ago on the Capital Beltway for allegedly having window tints that were too dark.
“The officer asked me to step out of the vehicle,” Beal said at a Friday news conference when asked by The Undefeated about his encounters with police. “Then he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f— up your Monday, put you in a headline and arrest you right now?’ ”
The highway on which Beal was stopped, Interstate 495, circles Washington. One section runs through Prince George’s County, Maryland, where the police chief resigned this week amid allegations of racism in a department that has a history of allegations of misconduct by officers.
And data released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, D.C., showed that in the city where the Wizards play, black people were being pulled over at a disproportionate rate by officers of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Fortunately, Beal, who was in his car with his wife and a friend, wasn’t arrested. But it’s clear from his emotions while recounting the story that the incident still has an impact on him.
“I didn’t do anything,” Beal said. “But because I was a black athlete driving a nice vehicle, that’s what he came up with.”
That common incident, along with recent tragedies involving black people and law enforcement, prompted several hundred people to join members of the Wizards and Washington Mystics on a march that began at Capital One Arena and ended at the base of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. People of all ages, races and genders wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts, held signs and shouted the names of victims of those police encounters.
“The last few weeks have been a mix of emotions ranging from sadness to that daily fear that we face with being black in America to anger,” said Cloud, who has been a leading voice of activism in the WNBA. “We’re using our platforms, making sure we’re using our voices. This is where we stand united together in solidarity, to say we’re not gonna be silent anymore.”
For Beal, his increased voice represents an evolution throughout the years. When Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 — a suburb of Beal’s hometown of St. Louis — the eight-year NBA veteran remained silent.
“It really hurt that when Michael Brown passed in my hometown, I didn’t do anything about it, I swept it under the rug,” Beal said. “That’s [six] years ago. I’ve matured as I got older.”
Beal has two kids now, and part of his maturity is understanding the challenges they’ll face as they get older.
“The most difficult thing for me is just trying to channel how much different their lives are going to be from how I came up,” Beal said. “But, at the same time, it won’t be too different. They’re still going to face those same challenges down the line. I have to prepare them for that situation.”
Speaking before the march, Beal and Cloud expressed appreciation for the diversity of the crowd.
“Collectively, together, from all different walks of life, different colors, different backgrounds, we came here today for solidarity for a real cause,” Cloud said. “George Floyd’s death rocked our whole nation, and for our white counterparts, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, y’all saw the reality of what we face every single day. We stand here as two teams and one family. Understanding, collectively, that this is the only way to get it done.”
As the march concluded at the memorial, Beal invited everyone to raise a hand high in the air.
“Together we stand,” the crowd shouted in unison.
Beal and Cloud said they’re hoping the young people who have taken to the streets around this nation and the rest of the world will keep the same energy in applying pressure on political leaders.
“It’s time we hold everybody accountable,” Beal said. “We got to call out lawmakers, state reps, district attorneys, judges, politicians and police unions. Everybody who deems themselves enforcers of the law have to be held accountable.”